• University of Glasgow

Understanding Genetic Disorders: How DNA Influences Health

Explore the science behind our genetics and health and empower those with genetics disorders to make more informed health choices.

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
  • 100% online

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Gain insight into cutting-edge genetics testing technologies and research

This course offers a fascinating insight into how genetics can impact our health and the importance of understanding genetic diseases in order to better manage and treat patients.

Explore the connection between genetics and health

It’s estimated that around 1 in 17 individuals – a significant proportion of the population – are affected by rare disorders, many of which are already known to have a genetic basis.

On this course, you’ll have the chance to study the molecular basis of specific inherited genetic conditions that show the main patterns of inheritance.

Learn how to calculate genetic risk

You’ll learn how to analyse a pedigree to identify the genotypes and phenotypes that predict how a trait will be passed on genetically, and build your knowledge of how to calculate genetic risk.

Discover the latest in genetics testing and technology

As access to DNA testing becomes more widely available, laboratories are able to use cutting-edge genetic technologies to identify the genetic variants leading to a specific condition.

You’ll explore these technologies in detail, and learn how a better understanding of the genetic basis of disease enables professionals to improve therapies to treat genetic disorders.

You’ll also consider ways clinicians can better support patients in understanding the implications of genetic disorders and the options they have.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds What makes us who we are in a large part the answer lies in our genes are genes make us all unique individuals. There is no such thing as a normal set of human genes, but our genes can also underlie many medical conditions. Some rare conditions like cystic fibrosis. Thalassemia and sickle cell disease are a consequence of particular jeans that are not working properly. Differences in our genes can also make us more susceptible to common conditions like dementia, cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds Even our ability to overcome infectious agents like viruses can be influenced biology, and in this MOOC you will learn about how genetic differences can lead to disease, how genetic approaches can be used to generate a diagnosis for patients, and how genetic information helps to facilitate better management treatment and options for affected individuals and their families. We hope that you will join us as we explore this amazing subject.


  • Week 1

    Inheritance and Genetic Disease

    • Welcome!

      Welcome to the course. In this activity you'll get a chance to introduce yourself and meet the educators and your fellow learners.

    • Exploring Chromosomes

      We will dicuss the normal structure and function of chromosomes and learn about errors in their number and structure.

    • Genetic Traits and Inheritance

      Let's explore how to draw and analyze a family tree.

    • Genetic Case Study (Part 1)

      Over the four weeks of the course we will follow the genetic investigations for Ken Ross and his family, who were introduced at the start of the week.

    • What Have You Learned?

      In the final activity of week 1 you will have the opportunity to assess your progress and discuss how you've got on with other learners. We'll also look forward to week 2.

  • Week 2

    DNA, Genes and Variants

    • Genotype To Phenotype

      In this activity we will cover the basic idea of 'Genotype to Phenotype' and learn what different alleles of a gene are.

    • Why Are We All Different?

      This activity examines the difference between variants and mutations and introduces some common genetic diseases.

    • How And Why Do Gene Variants Have Different Effects?

      In this activity you will look at the different kinds of variants that occur within genes, and how they can alter the function of the gene.

    • Genetic Case Study (Part 2)

      In the light of what you've learned this week it's now your turn to have a think about the genetic case study that we are following during the course.

    • What Have You Learned?

      In the final activity of week 2 you will have the opportunity to assess your progress and discuss how you've got on with other learners. We'll also look forward to week 3.

  • Week 3

    Getting a Genetic Diagnosis

    • Test samples and cytogenetics analysis

      Here we look at the different requirements for blood samples depending on whether the sample will be used for chromosome analysis or DNA analysis. We'll also review some cytogenetics approaches.

    • Molecular (DNA) testing of single (or a few) genes

      In this section we will review approaches for diagnosis when there are useful clues (eg from the clinical features) about the gene(s) that might be altered. We'll also consider how to report the results of testing.

    • Molecular (DNA) testing for whole genome (or many genes together)

      This activity will look at DNA tests which are useful when there are few or no clues from clinical features about where in the genome the pathogenic variant might be.

    • Genetic Case Study (Part 3)

      Here we continue to follow the investigation of the Ross family and focus on the genetic diagnosis.

    • What Have You Learned?

      In the final activity of week 3 you will have the opportunity to assess your progress and discuss how you've got on with other learners. We'll also look forward to week 4.

  • Week 4

    What Does Genetics Offer Patients?

    • Genetic Counselling

      In this activity you will learn more about the role of a genetic counsellor.

    • Approaches to genetic testing during (or before) pregnancy

      In this section we will look at various approaches that are used by some couples to avoid or minimize the risk of genetic conditions occurring in their children.

    • Ethics And Genetics

      Ethical issues permeate almost all aspects of genetics. Here we give you the opportunity to think about and discuss some key issues.

    • Therapy And Management

      How can an understanding genetics help with therapy? In this activity we will explore new appraoches to treating a range of conditions.

    • Genetic Case Study: Part 4

      Here we look at what can be offered to Ken Ross and his family, now that we know the pathogenic variant.

    • What Have You Learned?

      In the final activity of the course you will have the chance to test your learning and to reflect.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss the molecular basis of selected inherited conditions that illustrate the main patterns of inheritance
  • Understand how to draw and analyse a pedigree and calculate genetic risk
  • Describe how laboratories can use the latest technologies to identify genetic variants that have led to the patient's condition
  • Explore how an understanding of the genetic basis of disease can facilitate improved management and therapies of genetic conditions
  • Explore ways in which clinicians and genetic counsellors help patients to understand the implications of genetics for themselves and other family members and explore the options available to them

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in learning genetics and the clinical impact of differences in our DNA.

The course will be particularly useful for healthcare professionals, patients, and carer groups.

Who will you learn with?

My PhD was undertaken in the Genetics Department at the University of Leicester, and I'm currently a Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. I'm a Senior Fellow of the HEA.

Gerhard is from South Germany and moved to Glasgow in 1990 after completing a PhD in Bacterial Genetics. He is a lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow.

My PhD was in Developmental Medicine and I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. I have also been a Senior Fellow of the HEA since 2016.

Prof. Ed. Tobias PhD FRCP enjoys genomic research, teaching & seeing patients. Runs EuroGEMS.org & the Clinical Genomics course on Univ of Glasgow's multi-award-winning MSc in Med. Genetics & Genomics

Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

About this ExpertTrack

Enhance your understanding of the role genetics plays in shaping our health, and how this insight can help us treat disease.

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